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Looking for Love: Understanding What You Need

Looking for love and finding frustration instead? Follow these five steps to increase your chances of finding lasting happiness.

4. Test Drive a Potential Relationship

Looking inside yourself can help prepare you for a successful relationship, but eventually you must apply what you've discovered -- and begin seeking a partner. Unfortunately, it's at this point where many of us make some heart-breaking mistakes.

One of the most common mistakes: Believing that a person whose looks and personality you like also possesses the important qualities you need for a long-term relationship -- before you really know the person.

"There's something called cognitive dissonance -- meaning your head believes one thing and your heart believes something else. When you are in the throes of those toe-curling tingles, believe me, your heart is going to overrule your head every time," says relationship coach and matchmaker Melissa Darnay, author of Dating 101.

When your sense of logic finally does come back -- which Darnay says takes about 120 days from your first toe curl -- suddenly your heartthrob may not seem so appealing. It's equally frustrating when you're still "feeling the buzz" and your partner isn't.

Darnay says many such problems could be avoided, if we viewed new relationships like they were a new car -- starting with the "test drive" known as "dating."

"At the early stages of any relationship you should be dating -- and that's dating, not sleeping with -- at least three or four different potential partners," says Darnay. This will give you the emotional distance and time you need to get to know them before you get too serious with any one person.

5. Go in for a Three-Month Checkup

If the relationship progresses and you like what you see, within two months time you can start dating more seriously, perhaps even exclusively. But within three to four months, Darnay says, it's back to the new car analogy for one more spin around the relationship block.

"No matter how good a new car is running you've still got to take it in for that three-month checkup. The same is true for relationships," says Darnay.

That checkup should involve honestly answering some tough questions about your partner, including:

  • Is he really as honest as I first thought?
  • Does she have the same moral fiber I thought she did?
  • Does he really possess the kind of core values that mean something to me?
  • Is she who I thought she was? 

If the answers are no, pay attention. Experts say red flags are red for a reason -- so you can see them! If your partner isn't making the grade, cut your losses fast and run, says Darnay.

"Remember," she says, "you can change a person's socks, you can change their haircut, but you can't their change their core values -- or yours."

Reviewed on July 01, 2006

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